On average, the liver takes one hour to metabolize one ounce of alcohol. Matabolism is the process by which the body removes the alcohol from the blood system by way of the liver.
The body follows a straightforward process when processing alcohol.
The length of time alcohol stays in the system has more to do with how much a person drinks than any other factors. If you’ve ever had more than your “fair share” of drinks, you may recall a point where the “buzz” started to turn bad.
After a certain point, the blood and body tissues become a reservoir for any alcohol that’s not been metabolized. If this happens too many times, damage to the brain and tissues of the body will most likely develop.
How Is Alcohol Processed?
Alcohol is one the most accessible depressant drugs on the market. As a depressant, alcohol slows down central nervous system processes, which affects just about every physical and mental activity carried out by the body.
The body readily accepts and absorbs alcohol as soon as you take a drink. Unlike food or other types of drugs, alcohol requires little to no digestion in terms of needing to break it down into a digestible form.
Once in the stomach, 20 percent of the alcohol moves directly into the small blood vessels that carry water and nutrients throughout the body.
The remaining 80 percent moves into the small intestines where it enters another group of small blood vessels that travel through the body. The rate at which alcohol enters the body slows down when ingested with food. Slower absorption rates help to increase the time it takes a person to get fully intoxicated. Thus, it is better to eat before drinking alcohol.
Liver Metabolism Rates
Once alcohol enters the bloodstream, it travels to the liver where it’s metabolized.
On average, the liver takes one hour to metabolize one ounce of alcohol.
For most people, one ounce of alcohol will produce a .015 blood-alcohol concentration.
This means someone with a 0.15% blood-alcohol level will have little to no alcohol in their bloodstream after 10 hours have passed. So, the more you drink, the longer alcohol stays in the system.
Men vs. Women
A man’s body tends to have more water content than a woman’s body, with men averaging around 61 percent water compared to 52 percent for women. Any amount of water content will help to dilute alcohol concentrations in the body. The higher the water content, the less concentrated alcohol levels will become. Lower body-water content can also make a woman’s body more susceptible to the damaging effects of alcohol.
Alcohol and Weight
For the most part, the more you weigh and the bigger you are, the more alcohol it will take to increase your blood alcohol level. However, if your weight is due to fat, this fact might not be true because alcohol does not enter fat. Instead, it stays in your bloodstream. So, if your weight is due mostly to body fat, you may still get drunk just as quickly as someone with a slimmer build.
Behavioral effects of Alcohol
Alcohol is a sedative and mild anesthetic. Alcohol is believed to activate the pleasure or reward centers in the brain by triggering release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. At lower levels, alcohol produces a sense of wellbeing, relaxation, disinhibition, and euphoria.
As the alcohol level increases, people become more talkative, elated, and aggressive. Increasing the consumption of alcohol leads to a state of intoxication, which depends on the amount of alcohol consumed and a person’s previous experience of drinking.
Eventually slurred speech and a physical unsteadiness are likely to occur. In the end, a person becomes drowsy due to the sedative effects of the alcohol and a loss of consciousness may result. The after effects (hangover) include insomnia, tiredness, nausea, and headache.
Too much alcohol in a person’s system can be fatal due to ventricular fibrillation (heart beat issues), respiratory failure, or inhalation of vomit.
In short, the more a person drinks, the longer the alcohol will stay in the body. Eating food before or while drinking will slow the absorption of the alcohol and lessen the peak blood alcohol level. Although at first, alcohol causes feelings of wellbeing and relaxation, too much alcohol will lead to intoxication and can eventually result in death.